Design can be captivating. If all goes well, the design problem is interesting, your ideas flow freely, and you are in another world. Nothing exists except your own thoughts, decision, sketches and doubts. You use everything you have to overcome a design problem: all your knowledge and personal experiences, your creativity, and your powers of thought.
This is what design looks like from the inside. From the outside, design is a strange profession – the creation of novel things by means of an incredibly messy process that is hard to control and difficult to rely on. And while design became your way of life, you are now also challenged to develop other aspects in parallel: the organization of your rapid growing design practice might have to be changed, the market has to be scanned and addressed in peculiar ways, the production and distribution has to be adapted, sometimes overhauled completely. There are many vital connections between these changes in product, market, organization and production and overlooking one of these links can put the whole practice in jeopardy.
Every company wants to “produce maximum value for the customer” with a ‘dedicated workforce” these often vague and general policy statements are the starting point for more concrete strategies which work towards attaining those goals.
In this way, running a business and doing design work are quite similar. Both are processes where analytical capability and creativity are used together to develop plans for the future. The trouble is that these design-like problems of policy and strategy formulation are not tackled in a design-like way.
In design, it is unwise to set goals without exploring what is feasible. You have to explore the possibilities first, by developing and evaluating sketchy solutions. You alternate between the problem and its possible solutions, developing them together.
In “normal” management, the classic internal and external analyses used to develop the policy and strategies of a company are purely problem focused.
At first, design management looks like a simple operation, but its complexity increases as you peel back its many layers. What makes design consultancy such a delicate framework is that you need to know the entire design process yourself. Pursuing several degrees as a professor in Fine Arts & Design and a Master in Product design helps me understand a designer’s dilemmas and concerns for better communication between our clients and their clients by mapping the result of ambitions and strategies, and creatively exploring the designers’ results through experiments or pilot projects.
By leveraging our network combined with over a decade of experience behind these scenes, we’re able to create an optimized environment for designers where the logistics for their vision are taken care of. When designers receive this kind of support in the industry, it puts them at an advantage, which allows them to truly thrive.
This innovation process has many steps, from the development of a new company policy and strategy, to the consideration of a product portfolio, down to the ins and outs of the introduction to a new market. This process is often mapped as a linear scheme with boxes and arrows, like an extended version of a design process.
The difficulty in these larger innovation processes is that, in contrast to the design processes is that they take place within an agency. Because these various roles and the relationships they hold between one another are not fixed. Marketing for designers for example should move from an initial qualitative analysis of opportunities into developing a marketing plan for the product. An in between there are a number of design-driven phases where marketing is a vague concept.
Needless to say, these different roles that require such various amounts of engagement and responsibility are difficult to play, and very time consuming, in one and the same design practice.
As a designer you are once tasked to be the creative visualizer and the other time to be a consultant, then the lead party responsible for the core of the projects.
Especially in a relatively young and volatile market, like our regional one in search for it’s positioning in the global scene, making a mistake in the role you play, for instance pushing a favorite design concept while the market is still being explored is magnified and can be counterproductive.
Lastly, companies have realized that a strongly expressed identity may grow to be a ‘brand’, and be seen as an almost human entity by the market. Brands can be a very effective platform for market communication and are considered valuable money-earners in their own right. Building a clear picture of a company is something of a holistic enterprise, which involves many departments; management, marketing, communications and PR.
To get all of them to express a coherent message requires a lot of coordination. As a design agency our reflex is to always optimize the designer’s freedom and seek for new and exciting ways to maximize the designer’s potential and promote design across the globe.